HDGH looking to ‘go home’, proposes development at old Grace site

Janice Kaffer, CEO of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, discusses their proposal on the former Grace Hospital site on September 18, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is looking to go back to the west Windsor neighbourhood it helped anchor almost a century ago.

The healthcare system has confirmed previously published reports that it has submitted one of six proposals to the City of Windsor for the parcel of land on University Avenue West at Crawford Avenue for redevelopment. HDGH is pairing up with Amico, which will handle the actual development of the site.  The site has been vacant since the old Grace Hospital was torn down in 2013.

Janice Kaffer, president and CEO of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, helped provide an overview of the proposal to the HDGH board of directors at their meeting Wednesday afternoon. She said the plan is a cutting-edge idea designed to not only help the community with a mixed-use development and housing, but also provide some health services. Any revenue from the venture will be reinvested into patient care at HDGH.

“A hospital like this starts thinking about how we are going to serve our community into the future, which is healthcare,” said Kaffer. “We have to think about what we call the social determinants of health, and that’s things like housing and transportation, community and neighbourhood renewal, income disparities and all those kinds of things.”

The proposal is based on a similar partnership involving the University Health Network in Toronto, which is building affordable housing on land it owns in the city. HDGH wants to space out a massive redevelopment of the west Windsor land over five to ten years, at a cost of roughly $250 million. No public money will be used.

Once completed, Kaffer said hundreds of housing units would be available, along with facilities geared toward elderly patients, and those with chronic health issues.

When asked if the healthcare group expected friction from those who are opposed to the site of the new acute-care facility due to concerns over access to healthcare in the downtown core, Kaffer said they are filling a void in the neighbourhood that has been there since the old Grace Hospital closed 15 years ago.

“The services that we provide are, by and large, not necessarily tied to the acute-care project. Our project is really about the mental health side, and relocation of the beds from the Ouellette [campus] to over here,” said Kaffer, referring to HDGH’s Prince Road campus.

She added that the mixed-use development will include partners in healthcare and retail, two things the neighbourhood have generally lacked since the old Grace closed.

HDGH has met with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and others in city administration and may be ready to submit their detailed plan to City Council later this fall.

The other five proposals concerning the Grace Hospital site have not immediately been disclosed.

The land was first used as a hospital when the Salvation Army opened a 28-bed facility on the site in 1920. Subsequent expansions had the hospital property covering the entire city block. Grace Hospital merged with Hotel-Dieu in the mid-1990s. After the hospital closed in 2004, the building was allowed to rot until it was torn down, and the neighbourhood surrounding the block declined as well.